Pilates

Unlike Yoga, the roots of Pilates are not spiritual or religious. It makes use of the breath and physical control to improve posture and flexibility, sometimes with the help of equipment.
Pilates
Year founded
1920s

The History of Pilates

Developed by Joseph Pilates, a German physical trainer, in the early 20th century, it was originally named ‘contrology’. Pilates took inspiration from the 19th century culture of exercising to cure ill health and believed that mental health and physical fitness were closely linked to each other. Pilates moved to New York and opened his first studio in 1926. Unlike Yoga, his method was influenced by forms of exercise from the West, including gymnastics, boxing and Greco-Roman wrestling.

Pilates developed a variety of apparatus to accompany the practice. Each piece of equipment was designed to further the work started on the mat, strengthening the core, and improving overall flexibility and alignment.


Pilates published two books; Your Health: A Corrective System of Exercising That Revolutionizes the Entire Field of Physical Education in 1934, and Return to Life Through Contrology in 1945. Many of his students went on to teach the method. Contemporary Pilates includes original teachings from its founder as well as modifications from his students.

Pilates Practice

Pilates was designed to focus on core strength, but the practice also works the upper and lower body. This can help improve posture, balance, flexibility and mobility. Practicing Pilates can also help reduce stress and anxiety. There are two main types of Pilates, Mat and Reformer. Reformer Pilates uses a machine with a sliding platform and series of pulleys and springs that create resistance. More advanced classes may include other apparatus such as the Wunda or the Cadillac. Some techniques in Pilates include breathing exercise The Hundred, spine stretch The Roll-Up, and Leg Circles.

Who Can Practice?

Anyone can practice Pilates, although it can be more physically challenging than some types of Yoga. Movements are slow and controlled, focused on isolating certain muscles and connecting with the breath to build strength. If you are recovering from injury or illness, it’s best to check with your doctor before starting a new workout plan. Although the movements in Pilates may look slow and minimal, you will feel them the next day. If you’re a beginner, it’s best to find an entry level class and go easy, especially with exercises that centre on the lower back.

Pilates Classes

It’s unlikely you’ll own the apparatus required for a Reformer class, so most virtual Pilates classes will focus on mat work. In-studio classes can be taught to a group, or on a one-on-one basis. If it’s your first time using the apparatus, it’s recommended you take individual instruction before trying a group class. Unlike Yoga, it’s advised to wear tighter fitting clothes so the teacher can monitor your form and offer adjustments. Pilates mats tend to be thicker than Yoga mats to give extra protection when working on areas like the spine. Most classes will last for around an hour and will allow you to take in water.